When a writer/director has two films on your all-time favorite lists, you must be a big fan, regardless of your feelings toward his other work. For me that writer/director is Cameron Crowe, and those films are Almost Famous and Say Anything.
Last weekend I had a unique opportunity to watch Almost Famous in the out-of-doors. Some of my coworkers were getting together with a projector and a white sheet in an accommodating backyard. Not exactly on the scale of a drive-in movie, but certainly more exciting than sitting in front of the TV. A pile of DVDs was presented and one of my favorites came out the victor. I won’t pretend that I didn’t have something to do with that, but rest assured, it was not a controversial choice.
This experience got me wondering: why do I love this movie so much? The first reason that comes to mind is that it’s a movie about loving music. My favorite scene is when the band and their entourage are riding the tour bus in stony silence after a huge blowup between the band members. Then Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” comes on the radio, and one by one they all start singing along. Music as a uniting force! My love for that song is forever tied to my love for this movie.
Then I realized that Say Anything has a similarly iconic music moment. So what could I do on Sunday night but watch another one of my faves? I’m sure most people are familiar with the image of young John Cusack holding up a boombox, and you probably even know that Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” is the song he’s playing. And do I happen to find “In Your Eyes” irresistibly romantic? You bet I do.
So is this Cameron Crowe’s secret to success? Does he simply piggyback off the emotions elicited by quality music? He certainly knows the power of music to complement visual images, but that’s only a part of what his films have going for them. He also writes infinitely quotable scripts with characters that have become as iconic as the films themselves. John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler has ruined all other John Cusack roles for me. There’s just something about that skinny kid in a trench coat and Clash T-shirt. As for Almost Famous, it’s practically bursting at the seams with memorable performances. Frances McDormand as the overbearing mother. Philip Seymour Hoffman as the aging rock critic. Kate Hudson in her only movie that doesn’t drive me up a wall. (And to think they almost blew that role on Kirsten Dunst.)
So thank you, Cameron Crowe, for making films that idealistic music geeks can love for a lifetime.